Although family caregivers perform an incredibly valuable service for their relatives and
the formal health care system, they do so at a considerable cost to themselves both
emotionally and physically. Effective stress management techniques can: 1) help to decrease
the caregivers' feelings of burden and stress; 2) improve the emotional and physical health
of caregivers; and 3) empower caregivers to gain control of their lives.
The overall goal of this randomized clinical trial is to determine the effectiveness of a
stress-busting program (SBP) for caregivers of patients with chronic neurological diseases
including stroke, Alzheimer's disease, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson's disease.
Specific research objectives include: 1) Prospectively determine the effects of a SBP
compared to a standard support group (SSG) on quality of life and immune response in
caregivers of patients with chronic neurological diseases. Subjects will be tested at
baseline, at completion of 4 and 8 weeks of SBP or SSG, and at 2- and 4-month follow up
sessions. 2) Determine subjects' relaxation response as well as their response to acute
laboratory stressors using bioinstrumentation. Muscle tension, electrodermal response, skin
temperature, blood volume pulse, and heart rate will be measured. Subjects will be tested
at baseline, at completion of 4 and 8 weeks of a SBP or SSG, and at 2- and 4-month follow up
sessions. 3) Compare the effectiveness of SBP or SSG for adult children caregivers as
compared to spousal caregivers based on quality of life measurements, immune parameters, and
relaxation response. The proposed multimodal SBP will focus on a variety of approaches based
on cognitive behavioral and relaxation response theories. SBP will consist of a 8-week
program with 1�-hour sessions per week. The setting will be an educational support group
with topics related to stress, stress and challenges of caregiving, depression, coping
strategies, positive thinking, and taking time for oneself. In addition, subjects will be
taught simple relaxation strategies that they can practice at home. Outcomes will be
measured using psychosocial instruments as well as state-of-the science technology including
bioinstrumentation and immune parameters to measure biological responses. Follow up testing
will be done 2 and 4 months after the end of the SBP or SSG to determine the long-term
effectiveness of the intervention.
The primary caregiver of an individual with a neurological disease. Able to read and
converse in English.
Presently participating in an ongoing support group related to the neruological disease.
Sharon L. Mantik Lewis, PhD MS BS
South Texas Health Care System, San Antonio, TX